Original Research - Special Collection: The Church in Need of Change (Agency)

The Catholic Church in need of de-clericalisation and moral doctrinal agency: Towards an ethically accountable hierarchical leadership

Jennifer Slater
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 4 | a5446 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5446 | © 2019 Jennifer Slater | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 March 2019 | Published: 25 November 2019

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Jennifer Slater, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, School of Humanities, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Under normal circumstances the church would function as an agent of change and transformation, but this article focuses on the church herself that needs radical change if she is to remain relevant in mission and ministry in this current era. Clericalism and the centralisation of hierarchical control can be identified as the root causes of institutional pathology and weakening collegiality. To address clericalism may require the adjustment of seminary training, as in the current system seminarians are nurtured in a sense of separateness, promoting male-ego and feed gender exclusivity and doctrinal self-righteousness. While the seminary was once an instrument of reform in the Catholic Church, established to counter problems such as clerical concubinage and illiteracy, but now it is no longer suitable as it has become the forum that breeds other problems. Priority attention should be paid to purge the church of rampant clericalism, discriminatory scapegoating of gay persons, marginalisation of free thinkers, exclusion of women priests, the perceived moral laxity of family life issues and reception of communion by divorced Catholics without the benefits of annulment. Discrediting the personal authority of the pope is hardly an enlightened option. What ought to be transformed is the centralisation of control and allowing increased localised dominion whereby crises such as sexual abuse scandals could be addressed and solved more speedily and liberally, and limit the need to go to the top for solutions. To wait for centralised, hierarchal structures to deal with urgent issues is not desirable, as speedy accountability is needed to address issues that hurt the church in its entirety.


Clericalism; De-clericalism; Sacerdotal clericalism; Ultramontanism; Apostolic Succession; Ontological change; Seminary formation; Indelible mark; Servus Servorum Dei; Clerical abuse; Hierarchical clerical structure; Excommunication


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